Food insecurity a growing concern for children amid the pandemic

A boxed meal is prepared to be distributed by St. Paul Public Schools.

The St. Paul public school district has served thousands of children since the start of the pandemic, but they are still trying to reach more children, who may be food insecure.

St. Paul Public Schools staff prepare and deliver meals to thousands of students twice a day, five days a week.

“Right now, more than ever, we know that people need us,” said Stacy Koppen, the school district’s nutrition director.

The district is now seven weeks into its meal program since the spread of the COVID-19 shut down schools.

“Our program is really designed to ensure that children who are dealing with hunger or food insecurity, that they have options and resources,” said Koppen.

With the rise in unemployment, there are concerns that the public health crisis is driving rates of childhood hunger. According to a recent study, almost 35 percent of households with children said they lacked money to get enough food. That’s up from 21 percent during the Great Recession.

“I’m definitely concerned that there are some children in our community who maybe don’t have access to food and need our help,” said Koppen.

Koppen says before the pandemic, two out of three children struggled with hunger.

“Our families have students with siblings we don’t know about, so we really need to get that feedback, so that we can continue to make sure that the meals that we are providing, they’re going to help a hungry child,” she said.

Koppen says that staff have covered a lot of ground, but there are still more students to reach.

“I want everyone to rest assured that we have plenty of meals for everyone,” she said.

Families in need are asked register online with the school district for home delivery of meals.